Where’s the News?: David Welton wonders if Kinsey Millhone, star of Sue Grafton’s alphabet crime novel series, “is taking a slap at the News-Press.” After buying a paper off the rack in Santa Teresa (read: Santa Barbara), on page 378 of the hardback version of U is for Undertow, Kinsey says it “didn’t offer much in the way of news, only column after column of items pulled off the wire, most of which I’d read the day before in the LA Times.”
So who is this Kinsey Millhone, whose exploits her fans have eagerly followed ever since Grafton’s 1982 A is for Alibi? (Grafton based that first story to some extent on her own “fantasies” of murdering her then-husband prior to divorce.)
When I talked to Sue by phone this week about Kinsey, she confirmed what I’d read on Wikipedia: Kinsey was born on May 5, 1950. Her parents were killed in a car wreck when she was five. Kinsey survived and went to live with her Aunt Gin.
In high school, Kinsey was a delinquent. “After three semesters at a community college, she realized that the academic life was not for her,” according to the Wikipedia article, and she took a job with the Santa Teresa police force. After two years, Kinsey quit to become an investigator for an insurance company. The Wiki continues, “Eventually, she became a self-employed private investigator, solving various disappearances and murders, clearing names and dodging hitmen.
“Kinsey is 5’6”and weighs about 118 pounds. She has short, dark, thick hair that she trims with nail scissors, being generally uninterested in her physical appearance. … She does, however, place a great premium on physical fitness and jogs three miles every day. At the same time, she is an enthusiastic junk food fanatic.
“Kinsey has been divorced twice.” She has no children and lives in a converted garage. Kinsey has had several relationships in the series, beginning with Charlie Scorsoni.
“I am working on V is for …,” Sue told me. She’s around 100 pages into it and hasn’t glommed onto a title yet. “It’ll come out in 2011.” At this rate, Sue told me jokingly, “There’s hope” that she’ll be able to finish the series. She’s already chosen the final title: Z is for Zero.
The Girl Who: The crime novel series The Millennium Trilogy (The Girl Who …), by Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson, has sold 27-million copies worldwide, and American aficionados are desperately waiting for the third installment to arrive on U.S. shelves May 25. Ah, but thanks to a package from a friend in England, I’ve plunged into the further adventures of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist in their Nord noir battle with assorted bad guys. I can assure you that The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is every bit the page-turner that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire are.
Larsson delivered these first three manuscripts to his publisher, then died at 50 in 2004. A partly finished fourth novel sits in the laptop of his life companion, Eva Gabrielsson, who is locked in a nasty dispute with Larsson’s father and brother.
At one point in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Blomkvist is reading a Grafton novel.
Elect or Not Elect?: “You wrote a provocative column about the dubious need for an elected treasurer,” former county supervisor Frank Frost emailed.
“When I was a brand-new supervisor (in 1972), a banker from a local bank came to see me and berated our treasurer at the time,” Frost reported. “The county received millions of dollars in overnight or over-weekend transfers from state or fed, and Bank of America had the contract to receive these automatically and hold them for a few hours or days until the county treasury opened.
“The banker assured me that he could offer an interest rate two points higher than B of A, and he said only the stubbornness of our old-fashioned treasurer kept the county from reaping thousands a day in interest. When I asked our treasurer, a kindly old gentleman, he laughed and said there were all sorts of people offering deals but that B of A was safe as a rock.
“He also told me what I didn’t know at the time: that under state law, the treasurer of every county was elected so they and they alone could determine what banks to deposit county funds in. The supervisors could pressure him — and he told me of counties where good-old-boy supes tried to get their treasurer to help out some banker buddy — but they couldn’t force him.
“The same goes for county controllers and assessors, all positions that are ripe for political pressure, except they are elected under state law. I remember our controller Paul Floyd turning (one official) in to the sheriff because he went on an Exxon-paid trip to New Orleans and then put in for duplicate expenses — one of the several times that he barely dodged a felony indictment.
“By the way, the banker who came to see me committed suicide six months later, and his bank was crawling with auditors, as you can imagine.”